DC Circuit - The FindLaw DC Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

May 2015 Archives

A warrantless airport seizure of a man's laptop, followed by extensive searches of its contents, can't be justified as a routine border search, the District Court of D.C. ruled last week. Contrary to government arguments, a computer isn't just a container agents can pop open and look in to, as they might a suitcase or backpack.

In 2012, DHS agents seized a foreign citizen's computer as he was boarding a flight to Korea, after suspecting he was involved in illegal trading with Iran. They shipped the computer to San Diego, copied it, searched it, and burned the information onto a DVD -- all before bothering with a warrant. That's not the type of border search that's allowed, the circuit ruled, finding that the evidence from that search must be suppressed.

D.C. Cir. Upholds Your Right to Use a Kindle During Takeoff

Back in 2013, the FAA blissfully relaxed restrictions on when personal electronic devices (PEDs) could be used on airplanes. Prior to October 31, 2013, passengers had to wait until the plane was above 10,000 feet before using things like eBook readers and portable video game players.

That all changed -- because those rules weren't grounded in reality -- but the Association of Flight Attendants challenged the law. Last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the challenge.

One half of a duo of allegedly drug dealing brothers may have a shot at overturning his conviction after the D.C. Circuit remanded his claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Since the D.C. Circuit allows that claim to be raised on appeal, but district courts are better suited for hearing it, almost any claim which asserts sufficient facts is entitled to remand -- though the court promises this isn't reflexive!

At trial, Maurice Williams was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute. His brother, Ronald, faced similar charges, but the jury was hung on each of his counts. After a mistrial was declared, Ronald was retried and found guilty. On appeal he alleged, successfully enough for now, that his counsel failed to provide effective assistance, as required by the Sixth Amendment.